Amythine - The Dead Land

Rise of Corbin Thorne

Theodor Pascal sat on top of the world. Things could not be going more to plan. Released from captivity, held in trust by his master Von Thane, and revered as the most fearsome amongst his brethren. For now, Von Thane served his purpose, building Theodor in power. Sure from time to time, he had to endure tongue lashings from the blood regent, but his time was coming. When Theodor held Jykel in his hands, all this would be worth it. Visions of Von Thane on his knees made Theo bleed a tear of happiness down his cheek. Step one, take the Blood hunters and secure the crypt key at the ruins of Castilavee - Corbin Thorne saw these flashes of memory as he devoured the remaining essence of his former master. The assault on Castilavee, or Crystalwater, as its inhabitants referred to it through the gurgling noises of their feeding frenzy, was a death trap. Theodor paid with his unlife for the dreaded mistake, and Corbin barely escaped with his own. Sitting in the vortex of necromantic energy swirling around him, he inspected his fresh scars. His heroic stand earned him the right to succeed Theodor, an impressive feat amongst the ranks of his vampiric kin, as the unaging, undying nature of his kind meant advancement was often stymied by immovable superiors. Had it not been for the perfect storm of situations at play here, Corbin would likely have been doomed to making an ill-fated play for Jykel himself.     Corbin stood up to walk to the ramparts and peered over the parapets of his temporary fortress, surveying the battlefield with dead Ukthuun strewn across it. A grin of satisfaction passed over his lips as he witnessed a resilient greenskin snuffed out by a knight, going around converting the dying to the dead. New soldiers had to come from somewhere, and Ukthuun skeletons were robust. Corbin flexed his hand and stretched the membranous wing forming on his back. His Warband needed a new name to commemorate this change in leadership.   "Carpe Noctem", the words escaped from Corbin's lips as a whisper but boomed across the battlefield, followed by an other worldly roar of victory from his legion of blood. "As so it shall be, Carpe Noctem will be the Warband that saves this world from its chaos."  
The Dead Lands by Midjourney AI

The court of Amythine

Wytch light played off the pool of water in the centre of the great hall. Amythine, The Dark Queen observed it for a moment longer and winced as the last Ukthuun's life force was snuffed out, and with it, Amythine's sight faded from the battlefield.   "A new commander has taken control of the Blood Hunters, my lady," noted Bartholomew.   Amythine did not look at him. Instead, she orientated her gaze towards the retinue of wretched creatures entering her throne room.   "Your Imperial Majesty," said the giant ghoul that Amythine recognised as Alexander Emberwith. Deluded, but no less powerful, King of Crystalwater.   "Your Majesty, what brings you to my hall?" inquired Amythine, waving off the offer of wine from the spectre serving her.   "I bring news of monstrous trees attempting to steal the Crypt Key, your Imperial Majesty," replied the ghoul king.   "Stillendam does not trust us to keep the key safe, no surprises there," interjected Bartholomew, as he floated up from his position at Amythine's side and towards the pool they used for scrying earlier.   He touched the surface with his great, rusted sword, sending ripples dancing across the surface.   "I appreciate the news, your Majesty. What have you done with the keys after the battle?" asked Amythine as she looked over at the image forming in the pool.   "I thought it wise to secure them in the tower of Estromark, my lady." The scene in the pool cleared to show a valley carved through by an old dirt road. "Tread carefully on that path. The road to Estromark is an ideal place for an ambush..."  
by Midjourney AI

The Ambush

Federo was tired from the long day of travel. His saddle was chafing the inside of his thighs raw, and he felt no satisfaction from the brackish water he sipped awkwardly from his mouldy old water skin. "How much longer do we have to travel to get to Estromark?" he asked impatiently.   Tanya looked over at him, her bright red hair glimmering in the gloom, "10 minutes less than I told you 10 minutes ago."   "The loot better be as good as you say," sneered Federo as he swatted at a corpse fly.   The big, brutish oaf, Kalahan grabbed Federo by the shoulder from behind with his giant meat slab hand, "If Fedor no shut up, Kalahan, eat Itavi tonight..."   "The name is Federo, you buffoon," replied Federo with aetheric energy cracking in his eyes, a warning but too subtle for Kalahan.   Before Kalahan could retort, Tanya interjected, "Shut up, the both of you. Smell that?"   The smell of a thousand rotting corpses rolled over them like a tidal wave on the wind. Federo, caught off guard, instantly convulsed and vomited next to his horse, all over Kalahan's leg.   "What! You.." Kalahan began, but Tanya snapped his mouth shut with a magically empowered word of silence.   "We need to get off the road. Now!" Tanya pulled her horse to the right, guiding it up the valley side, heading for the dead treeline.   The other two, realising the mortal danger they were in, followed. The shelter of the trees came with a cost to visibility. They had to stay close. They remained so close, in fact, that when Kalahan vanished from his horse with a silent scream in a blur of black, the blood spray drenched Federo's cloak. Fear took hold before he could even perceive what had happened. He bolted forward, knocking Tanya from her horse in passing.   "You bastard!" she shouted after him as she recovered her feet.   "Fear gets the better of them all, darling," said a cold, stern voice behind her.   Tanya flung round, drawing her rapier and starting an offensive incantation, but before she could complete the sentence, the graceful creature standing behind her removed her jaw with a swipe and licked the blood from its talons. Only the shock and adrenaline pumping through her kept Tanya from experiencing the full defacing horror of her situation. The vampire was on her, draining her blood swiftly before dropping her limp body to the pale brown soil.   "What about the other one Lord Thorne?" asked a Knight stepping out of the gloom.   "There is no time to set after him," replied Corbin, wiping the blood from his face, "The ghouls will be here soon. In position and ready for battle."       Federo rode his horse hard. The screams had stopped. "Maybe they escaped?" he suggested, mostly trying to convince himself.   He skirted a tree jutting from an escarpment to find the other side was the brink of another. The horse tumbled down and sent Federo flying. The roll down was harsh, Federo could feel ribs cracking and joints popping as he impacted several large rocks, finally ending his descent on a flat. With a groan, Federo pulled himself into a seated position amongst the scree caused by his abrupt drop. With the horrid smell of death all around him, he wiped the blood from his eyes, and his blurry vision began to clear. Instantly he wished that it had not. Then the swarm of ghouls descended on him in a blur of gore and hapless screams.       "The dark lady provides Mathos," said King Alexander Emberwith as he saw his men dine on the conveniently placed picnic basket that had appeared from nowhere.   "She blesses our journey, your Majesty," replied the courtier, "She has long been a generous and benevolent God-Empress."  

The Messenger

Olivia licked the blood from her talons and used the man's lapel to wipe arterial spray from her face. She could probably have used magic to simply make it vanish, but something inside her had a desire to be remembered, even if it was only briefly in the evidence of her kill. Olivia was so caught up in savouring the moment that the sharp pain of wood bark piercing her back seemed a distant echo happening to someone else, but as the pain finally broke through the haze, it snapped her back to reality. With a flurry, she whipped around, lashing out with her talons. She had been too caught up in her kill to realise she was being stalked, but it was not every day a human ventured this way. Branches snapped, and leaves fluttered as Olivia cleaved through the dryad behind her. She could see ten more, but she knew there would likely be several that she could not see.   "Well, come on then," Olivia challenged them, "Let's get this done..."   The dryads lurched forward, and Olivia met them we fierce determination, carving a path through them but taking several deep wounds for her effort. Her regeneration helped numb the sting, but the splinters protruding from her skin interfered with the healing process. A loud groan and the creaking of a great oak called her attention as she realised that it was not only Dryads coming out of the woods. A massive wooden talon sprouted from a tree next to her and lashed out as it coalesced into a Treelord.   The blow sent Olivia crashing into a large stone boulder, shattering several bones. The impact would have killed a mortal. Good thing she wasn't one, but this battle was lost. It was time to exit stage left. She had to reach Lord Corbin Thorne, his Warband was not that far away, and she was sure he would take her under his charge if she brought him the intelligence she had earned in Bittermorne. Not the part about the location of the third key, as he already held the other two, she had no doubt that this information had already reached him, but to the real secret that the keys unlocked. Only one key was required to unlock Jykel, but all three were needed to open Jykel and let out the Hazmothane, who was partially imprisoned within it. Indebted gods were valuable resources to her kind. With bark arrows flying overhead and the forest coming alive to snatch at her heels, Olivia ran as fast as she could. A blur in the fog, moving with unnatural grace.  

The Wartide

Finally, Kubaal felt the satisfying crunch of bone under his brutish heal, but without the usual satisfaction of blood splurging from the wound. Vampires were sticky on the inside when they had not fed in a while. All that blood Magic must have taken a toll on the pale king. Kubaal picked up what remained of the crushed head to look into its blinking pain-filled eyes.   "Yoos dunni die easy, does ya," noted Kubaal as he inspected the oddity.   "I is finking yoos be comin' back if I go leavin' yous," Kubaal scratched his head. "Maybe Vat not so bad. Yous and ya dead fings made fo a good fight! Gave da boys a good battlin' and ol'. I fink, maybe I let yous comin' back good and angry. Ven, maybe yous will have a betta fight next time."   Kubaal tossed von Thane's remains aside and turned to the shaman nearby to give the strange, gangly creature a nod. With a squeal of excitement, the Ukthuun holy man flopped over the shattered vampire and got to work…     ***     "Lady Olivia," said the bloodied knight from his grotesque steed, "Lord Corbin is fallen. What shall we do?"   "There are too many of them," replied Olivia, "I think it's time we abandoned this forsaken land in favour of more succulent prey."   She looked back to what remained of Lord Corbin's coven. As the ranking officer, she had become the de facto head. It was not how she expected things to go, but hey, when the world gives you lemons, you might suck the vendor dry.   "To East Haven, ride!" she commanded, and the fearsome lot broke into a trot away from the sea of restless spirits.  


Bartholomew bowed in front of the throne and, raising his head, announced, "The Estromark Guard has arrived, your majesty, and they brought all three crypt keys with them."   Surprise flicked across Amythine, The Dark Queen‘s face for a moment, "That is a pleasant turn of events. Thank you, Bartholomew."   she looked out into the courtyard where she could see wytch light glimmering to announce the spectral commander's arrival.   "Seems the dead keep the living world safe yet again..."

The old vampire Von Thane has been freed and seeks to regain his mighty weapon Jykel, but Amythine, The Dark Queen of The Dead Lands will not allow that.

Cover image: by Midjourney AI